Technology in the Construction Industry
A recent white paper released by accounting firm KPMG detailed the results of a survey conducted on the technological practices of both large, private construction firms and government agencies involved in construction. Although responses varied significantly and generated thousands of unique data points, KPMG derived several key conclusions as a result of this investigation:
- The construction industry is yet to fully embrace technology.
- Many firms are struggling to make sense of increasing volumes of available data.
- Real-time project reporting is a vision that has yet to be actualized by the majority of firms.
- There’s still room for improvement in project management basics.
The construction industry has innovated at a snail’s pace over the last 15 years: why is that?
This resource article offers insight into current practices in technology in the construction industry, why contractors and business owners may be slow to engage new technologies in their daily operations, and how these same folks could reap the benefits of new technologies in the future.
The Current State of Technology in the Construction Industry
Construction firms of various sizes were asked to report where their business fell on the technology adoption spectrum – were they cutting-edge visionaries, industry leaders, industry followers, or behind the curve? Just 8% of the construction executives surveyed ranked their companies as cutting-edge visionaries while the majority stated that they were either industry followers or behind the curve regarding adopting new technologies in construction.
Large companies may indicate that they are industry leaders, but in reality, it is often most difficult for large enterprises to adopt new practices when it comes to project management. Small companies seem to lack the financial muscle to invest adequately in the newest innovations in project management and data analytics, while mid-size firms are most likely to report being at the cutting edge of innovation.
Firms that are lagging behind in adopting new technology are using traditional project management methods, meaning they likely do not have an integrated real-time project reporting platform or an effective analytics system for storing and evaluating data on projects. Less than 30% use mobile devices to assist with monitoring projects, and just a third are using robotics and automation in their businesses.
- - 8% of construction executives would rank their companies as cutting edge regarding technology
- - less than 30% of construction firms mobile devices to monitor projects
- - only 1/3 of construction firms are using robotics or automation
Why Contractors may be Slow to Adopt New Technology
There are several reasons for slow adoption of new technology in the construction industry. Firstly, contractors frequently operate within relatively tight budget constraints and may not have the funds available to purchase and implement a project management or data analytics solution. Implementing such a solution may require the contractor to hire more staff for maintenance and operations, train employees on how to use the software effectively, and provide technological capital to staff to enable usage of the software. These additional costs are prohibitive in many cases.
The risk associated with adopting new technologies can sometimes be prohibitive as well. Large firms require significant investments to integrate new technologies into their practices, and the adoption process can severely disrupt normal operations in worst cases. Firms seeking a competitive edge cannot simply adopt new technologies; they must integrate them efficiently and optimize their usage to see a return on investment.
How Contractors can benefit from eSub and other Technology for Construction
The main area of impact for technology in construction management today is PMIS or project management information systems. A great PMIS such as eSub utilizes many key features to enable superior project management for subcontractors and GCs. According to the survey conducted by KPMG, just 27% of contractors have one button they can push to receive fully integrated, real-time data on projects.
The robust feature set offered with eSub replaces the suite of third-party tools that many construction firms use to do everything from track project costs to share documents. With the eSUB platform, documents are shared between the office and the field in real time. Subcontractors can generate reports, time cards, change orders and RFIs and transmit them to the office, eliminating time spent on paperwork. Field reporting also provides real-time information about costs and enables project managers to make critical decisions based on the most up-to-date information.
Testimonials available on the eSub case studies page indicate how the use of information technology in the construction industry is allowing firms that adopt the eSub platform as their PMSI solution to enjoy enhanced decision-making capabilities, streamlined workflow at all levels and higher profits.
- - only 27% of contractors can receive integrated real-time data on projects with one click
- - eSUB's fully integrated and technologically advanced platform is extremely beneficial for construction firms
Contractors looking to compete in an increasingly competitive and risky construction industry over the next several decades have no choice but to integrate leading technologies into their business practices. Today, many large firms are slow adopters of new technologies, and, as a result, small contractors and subcontractors can put a significant dent in their market share by using new developments in construction technologies to streamline processes, reduce costs and claim bigger market shares for themselves.